New Prosecuting Attorney Steps Into Office


Photo Courtesy of St. Louis Post Dispatch

On Aug. 7, 2018, Ferguson Councilman Wesley Bell was announced as the official Democratic candidate for the prosecuting attorney’s office, ending the 28 year term of Robert McCulloch.

Although the general election for office wasn’t until Nov. 6, Bell’s victory in the Democratic primary secured him a spot in office. Bell ran unopposed as no Republican filed for their party’s primary.

Bell was sworn into office at midnight on Jan. 1, making him the first black prosecuting attorney in St. Louis County history. According to the St. Louis American, Bell’s urgency to be sworn into office stemmed from “not wanting McCulloch to occupy that post one second longer than necessary.”

On his first day, the new prosecutor made headlines for the termination of three long-time St. Louis County prosecutors. This should have come as no surprise considering how vocal Bell had been about the office while campaigning.

“The current St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney’s office has established a precedent of dishonesty. By preferring deceit over transparency, the office has been violating justice for decades,” says Bell’s website.

In a policy memo released on the same day, Bell announced numerous changes that would be made to the way prosecutions are handled. One of the most notable changes, is in regards to marijuana.

The memo states that they will no longer prosecute people found in possession of less than 100 grams of marijuana. Even then, prosecution for those in possession of more than the limit will only be pursued if there is evidence of intent to distribute.

This change comes from his belief that the former office placed too much emphasis on prosecuting non-violent drug crimes.

“When a Prosecutor operates in this manner, they are acting as an arm of the police rather than a guardian of the public trust in its own right. This clogs the courts, delays trials, and contributes to the County’s high incarceration rate,” says Bell’s website.

Another notable change made by Bell pertains to misdemeanors and lower felony classes. In place of arrest warrants, the associate prosecutors will issue summons for court dates. Exceptions will be made if the suspect is believed to be a danger to potential witnesses or victims or has a history of failing to appear in court.

Early on in his term, Bell has made strides in order to distance himself from past prosecutors. He has made it clear that this is only the beginning, with many more reform changes to come. To read more about Bell and his positions visit his website.